Common flu myths debunked


by JIM BERGAMO / KVUE News and photojournalist JOHN FISHER

Bio | Email | Follow: @JimB_KVUE

Posted on October 7, 2013 at 5:35 PM

Updated Monday, Oct 7 at 6:43 PM

AUSTIN -- Fall is here, and that means that flu season is too. From wives' tales to home remedies, we thought it a good time to highlight what doctors say are a few of the most common myths about the flu vaccine.

Austin's Hike and Bike trails are where people come to walk, run, ride and exercise their way to better health. KVUE gave some trail goers a pop quiz on the flu vaccine.  

Misconception #1: The flu vaccine can give you the flu

"I'd say that's probably true," said Austin resident Trent Guerra.

"This is a common misconception," said Albert Gros, M.D., the chief medical officer at St. David's South Austin Medical Center. "The flu vaccine is made with inactivated viruses specifically treated to avoid the chance of giving you the flu."

"I've gotten the flu vaccine, and I've gotten sick hours later," said Michael McNeilly, an Austin resident. "I guess I was just coming down with it, or I was just unlucky."

"Unfortunately it takes about two weeks for the flu vaccine to fully take effect," said Gros. "What can happen is people can be exposed to a common cold, or indeed the flu, and come down with it during that time the vaccine hasn't taken effect."

Misconception #2: Healthy people don't need to get a flu vaccine

"They don't," said Bertha Mendez, an Austin resident. "Your body has immune systems that will prevent you from getting the flu."

"Again this is not true for a couple of reasons," said Gros. "One is if you get a flu shot it will lessen the likelihood that you'll be miserable for 10 to 14 days. Secondly it will help keep you from passing the flu virus on to someone else."

Misconception #3: You can catch the flu from cold weather

"No that's false," said McNeilly. "(You can get it) only through human contact or not washing your hands or touching your face, stuff like that."

Doctors say that is the correct answer.

"The reason cold weather is usually associated with upper respiratory infections is because typically we spend more time indoors," said Gros. "This time of year when these upper respiratory infections are around, it's easier to contract them when you're in close, confined quarters with someone who is coughing and sneezing."

Misconception #4: There's no treatment

Gros says anti-viral remedies like Tamiflu can actually shorten the duration.

Misconception #5: There's no point in getting a flu shot after December

Gros says often flu season can extend into March, so you should still get the vaccine.

Go here for information on Austin's free, seasonal flu clinics.

To find a health care provider offering the flu vaccine, go here.

Go here for more information about the flu virus.